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Billionaire Giving: All Heart ... or Nothing but Show?

Stocks in this article: BRK.B MSFT F ORCL

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- New U.S. Census data supports one fact that many struggling-to-make-ends meet Americans on Main Street have long been living with on a daily basis: the income gap is widening. In fact, the U.S. income gap last year grew to a record level.

The top 20% of the income bracket -- those making more than $100,000 each year -- pocketed 49.4% of all U.S. income. Those below the poverty line amassed 3.4% of U.S. income, according to Census data compiled in an AP wrap on the distressing state of U.S. income affairs. The income gap was double the level tracked in 1968, and by another Census measure, it was the highest income inequality since the Census Bureau began tracking the data in 1967.

It also placed the U.S. in the unenviable position of being No. 1 among developed Western nations in income inequality.

At the same time, philanthropic giving from the richest of the rich American has also been a staple of the news this year. Do extreme income inequality and increased giving from U.S. billionaires go hand in hand, and cancel each other out in the end? This wasn't Henry Ford's idea when he pioneered the working wage for every man, arguing that he had to pay the Ford worker enough to buy the car that the worker helped to manufacture or the economic system had lain the seeds for its own destruction.

Though long before the creation of the Ford Foundation and its elite non-governmental organization crowd -- recently ridiculed by Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) chief operating officer Charlie Munger as doing less for the world than Costco (COST) -- the likes of Andrew Carnegie and Ford also placed themselves in the business of actively deciding what was in the best interest of the common man.

Carnegie, unlike Ford, fought against wage increases for workers -- fought against wage increases with murderous consequences -- making the argument that he knew better than the worker what to do with all the money he was making, and the workers would waste any increased wages on drink and leisure.

Henry Ford, his pioneering ideas for the workplace left aside, also employed a private police force that made it the business of Ford (F) to spy on workers at home and punish, often with brute force, any worker who spent his working wage on leisure activities like a pint of beer or shot of liquor.

Vote Now About the Big-Hearted Billionaires
Big-Hearted Billionaires: All Heart or Nothing but Show?

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